Thriller Writer Tj O'Connor

Dying For The Scares That Care

Aug 5, 2015

On the road again … So, the first thing I saw when I walked into the Williamsburg Hilton Double Tree hotel was this:  

I knew I was in the right place—Scares that Care—a children’s charity convention. According to its web site at, “Scares That Care is an approved 501(c)(3) who fights the REAL MONSTERS of childhood illness, burns and breast cancer by helping families that are experiencing these extraordinary hardships cope with the financial burden … Our non-profit organization provides money, toys and other items to help sick children.”

That’s all I needed to know. Count me in.

And yes, I knew that people such as the masked monks of who-knows-where were all part of the décor.

This charity event brought these cosplay folks out for the costumes, action figures, jewelry, books, and memorabilia. They patrolled the halls and restaurants, gave passersby little skits and photo ops, and had their shtick ready to go on demand. The convention wouldn’t have been a success without them. And, I’d be sitting at my table of books, often bored and lonely, without the constant flow of the unusual to keep me entertained. Trust me, I was entertained the entire three days!

As an author struggling to build an audience, I have taken the road less traveled (sorry, Mr. Frost) and appear at various theme-conventions such as Monstermania, Comic Con, Farpoint, and others to set up shop, talk, and sell my books. These cosplay conventions stir the bizarre in all of us—well, in all of them. There are spaceship heroes and aliens, monsters from the deep and beyond, swashbuckling space-pirates and real pirates (there you go, Jesse, your plug), and even maidens scantily clad in, well, scant-stuff. At these events, I’m the odd-man-out dressed in my traditional sport coat, loafers, and jeans. “Aghast! What character are you?” they ask. “A Man In Black? The Blue Hornet? The Spy From Beyond?” “No,” says I, “The Unknown Author—a humble writer seeking truth, justice, and fans … buy my book!”

The Costume one is
on the right … no, the left!
But, behind all the macabre costumes and fanciful themes lies the true meaning of why we’re all there. The charity. The kids. There is no better cause—none. But there are other reasons many of us attend. For me, it’s the friendship—the camaraderie. Meeting new people. Finding the one or two that I might truly connect with and who share a love of my world—books. I’ve said many times that writing is a lonely business. For me, my Labs are my best companions and greatest fans. But even they are bored with my constant soliloquies about my stories. These conventions offer the possibilities of new readers and fans. The conventions bring in people with love for stories—be it science fiction, horror, or mystery. There’s a kinship in this. Sort of like Stockholm Syndrome—you bond with your captors.

 I found that kinship at these conventions early on—and these trips have given me something I never expected … not just readers, but dear friends. I’ve met some extraordinary people. I can’t list them all, but my email list grows after each trip. I’ve met independent studio movie makers like those from MILFS vs. Zombies—nope, not a misprint; amazing photographers like Jenna from Images by Jenna; and wild-ass crazy pirates like Capt. Mango de Cayo Hueso. Then there is Clay, the aspiring D.C. author; Jim the clockmaker; Louis the author-film maker-entrepreneur; Wayne the part-time ghost hunter; and some down-to-earth lovelies like Karen, Kayla, and Kelly who went to Williamsburg on a monsters quest. In between are some very talented people who make these trips interesting—artists, film makers, costume designers, writers, sculptors, toymakers, and more. There’s no room for boredom or solitude—even if you’re a man in black.

Many of these folks—okay, maybe a few—I’ve really bonded with. Yes, bonded. I know it’s a laugh to those who know me, but deal with it. And I’ve kept those friendships long distance. I look forward to the next convention so we can share a drink, a meal, and some laughs and more stories. Some of those stories I’ll tell in my blogs—the vampire bar-hottie biting lovely ladies through the night (on camera) just for us; chatting with Eureka’s Colin Ferguson before breakfast (I gave him a book!); chatting with The Walking Dead’s Scott Wilson (Yes, I gave him a book, too); the drunk lady who crashed into our display table and took out the whole shebang but never spilled her beer (then went on to steal all my business cards and bookmarks!); meeting Chewbacca and Princess Leia; disappearing in Doctor Who’s Tardis; being stalked by God-only-knows-who several times, and on and on …

Many stories, however, will remain locked away in memory only—it’s for the best, trust me. And there may be a statute of limitations.

So, to my new friends made during my many travels—as Mr. Frost wrote (sort of)—I took the road less traveled by, and you have helped make all the difference.

To all of you—Thank You.

PS: Here are a couple links for folks I’ve met along my travels:

Scares that Care

Images by Jenna

MILFS vs. Zombies

Capt. Mango de Cayo Hueso

Tj O’CONNOR IS THE GOLD MEDAL WINNER OF THE 2015 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS BOOK AWARDS FOR MYSTERIES. He is the author of Dying to Know and Dying for the Past, available in bookstores and e-books from Midnight Ink. His third paranormal mystery, DYING TO TELL, will be released January 2016. He is currently working on a traditional mystery and a new thriller. Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York’s Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Lab companions in Virginia where they raised five children. Dying to Know is also a Foreword Review’s 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award finalist.

Learn about Tj’s world at:

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I first fell in love with writing while in grade school and over the years continued to dabble with characters and stories whenever life allowed. Lately, I've focused my energy on pursuing this dream—interrupted only by life as a security consultant and the demands of two Labrador retrievers.

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